Essay Number One
Confronting what he once called "our century of fear," Albert Camus would have us all be "neither victims nor executioners," living not in a world in which killing has disappeared ("we are not so crazy as that"), but one wherein killing has become illegitimate. This is a fine scholarly expectation, to be sure, yet the effective result could only be an insufferable enlargement of pain, injustice and disorder, especially in the Middle East. Deprived of the capacity to act as a lawful executioner, the State of Israel would be forced by Camus's distorted reasoning to become a victim and, in relatively short order, to disappear.
Why was Camus, who was thinking, of course, in the broadest generic terms, and not about Israel in particular, so sorely mistaken? Where, exactly, did he go wrong? By seeking an answer to this question, Israel can now learn a great deal about its own increasingly problematic survival. My own answer to the question lies in Camus's presumption, however implicit, of a natural reciprocity among human beings and states in the matter of killing. We are asked to believe by the philosopher that as greater numbers of people agree not to become executioners, still greater numbers will follow upon the same course. In time, the argument proceeds, the number of those who refuse to sanction killing will become so great that there will be fewer and fewer victims. The problem, of course, is that Camus's presumed reciprocity does not exist, indeed, can never exist, all the more so in the Middle East. The will to kill Jews, as citizens of a Jewish State should have learned from so many for so long, will always be unimpressed by Israel's particular commitments to Reason and Goodness. It follows that Jewish executioners have their distinctly rightful place in world politics, and that without them there will only be more victims -- victims like those mothers, fathers, schoolchildren and unborn children who died in a Tel Aviv cafe last month.
In the next-to-best-of-all-possible-worlds for Israel (the best of such worlds would be one where the Jewish State had no enemies at all), that country's most implacable foes would subscribe to the minimal settled norms of civilized international behavior. Here negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians might actually be sensible, and might even lead to generally gainful agreements for all parties. But Israel does not live in such an imaginary world; rather, it lives in a world wherein Jerusalem's desperate demonstrations of civility - now expressed by three different Prime Ministers - are interpreted by implacable enemies as weakness and where Jerusalem's repeated unwillingness to use appropriate force (because Israel wants to be "good") is taken as an invitation by uncivilized enemies to terrorize and murder.
Traced back to its origins, the barbarism of Israel's enemies (Hamas, PLO, there is no difference) is rooted in frightful attitudes toward death, both individual and collective. So long as these enemies see some "remedy" for their own unbearable mortality in the killing of outsiders, in the killing of Jews, they will, as we have seen in the recent behavior of terrorists, prepare gleefully to become executioners. This leaves Israel with essentially three options: (1) create conditions whereby terrorist enemies of Israel can be detached from their frenzied (however unwitting) pursuit of immortality; (2) create conditions whereby these enemies can detach "final solutions" for their overriding fears of death from the killing and torturing of Jews; or (3) create conditions whereby erroneous Israeli presumptions about Reason and Goodness that have spawned more and more Jewish victims are quickly discarded, conditions favoring the prompt preparation of legal and purposeful "executioners."
Options 1 and 2, of course, are beyond the realm of possibility. Nothing Israel can do could ever affect its terrorist enemies' most deeply-rooted orientations to death and deliverance. Israel can only look seriously at Option 3, deciding to accept it, and thereby to survive, or to reject it, and thereby to "die." Although the professors and the pundits all over the world would grieve at such expressions of Israeli "inhumanity," this grief would represent little more than the altogether predictable lament of people who cannot see blood on their own hands, people with very limited intellectual capacity (in spite of their vaunted credentials) and people with very limited awareness of memory. Moreover, this pathetic and revolting lament would be far easier for Israel to bear than the consequences of a misplaced faith in Reason and Goodness, the sort of faith that presently continues to underpin the obscene foolishness of a so-called Peace Process.
In the next-to-best-of-all-possible worlds for Israel, the Jewish State could choose to be neither a victim nor an executioner. But in the existing world, Israel and its terrorist enemies both operate amidst the "rules" of an authentic global anarchy, a decentralized system of power and authority wherein right is coincident with power and justice is dependent upon force. In this terrible and terrorizing world, a world whose security dynamics remain what they have been since the Peace of Westphalia in the seventeenth century and which will continue for the forseeable future, Israel must recognize that genocide against Jews is far more than a receding memory. Understood in terms of Israel's persistent unwillingness to be a lawful executioner, it could also be a contemporary expectation.
Sadly, sometimes killing is a sacred duty! Camus failed to acknowledge this, a failure born of self-deception concerning human fears, human possibilities, and human law. Faced with such fears and possibilities, all law must rely, in the final analysis, on the executioner. To deny the executioner his proper place, as the ancient Hebrews, among many others (e.g., Greeks) were well aware, is to destroy civil society altogether, to make some of us certain victims.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is a Professor, Department of Political Science, Purdue University who writes nontraditionally on matters concerning international relations and international law. E-MAIL: BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU
Essay Number Two
But Troy still held out, and the Greeks began to
despair of ever subduing it by force, and by the
advice of Ulysses resolved to resort to strategem.
They pretended to be making preparations to
abandon the siege, and a portion of the ships were
withdrawn and lay hidden behind a neighboring island.
The Greeks then constructed an immense wooden
horse, which they gave out was intended as a
propitiatory offering to Minerva, but in fact was
filled with armed men.
We all remember how this story ends. The remaining Greeks take to their ships, sailing away as if for a final departure. The Trojans, seeing the Greek encampment broken up and the fleet gone, conclude that the enemy has abandoned the siege. The gates of Troy are thrown open, and the whole population bursts forth to rejoice. As for the great horse, Laocoon - the priest of Neptune - warns insightfully: "What madness, citizens, is this. Have you not learned enough of Grecian fraud to be on your guard against it?"
But the good citizens of Troy are in no mood for prudence. Regarding the great wooden horse as a sacred object, it is brought into the city with reverence and solemnity. During the night, the armed men enclosed in the horse, after being released by a traitor named Simon, open the gates of Troy to the main body of Greek forces, which has returned under cover of darkness. The city is set on fire, the people - who have been overcome with complaisance - are all put to the sword. Troy is completely destroyed.
How can Israel fail to heed the story of ancient Troy? It is very much the story of present-day Israel, especially of Jerusalem. Ignoring that the Oslo Accords were conceived, from the start, as an enemy "Trojan Horse," the Netanyahu Government of Israel, much in the fashion of its altogether confused immediate predecessors, is still enchanted by "gifts." Indeed, whenever Arafat and the Palestine Authority agree, yet again, to "re-start the peace talks," this Government, like the Rabin and Peres governments before it, always lets the enemy's subterfuge gain a little more Israeli ground. Although much of Israel's current predicament is certainly the result of its renewed worship of a Golden Calf, of its betrayal of basic Zionist precepts, the final death blow to the Third Commonwealth will likely issue forth from the contemporary equivalent of a seemingly innocuous and ungilded Wooden Horse.
For Israel, the Oslo Accords, a jurisprudential Trojan Horse, remain an almost sacred object. Promising an end to the insufferable prospect of protracted war, these agreements are still treated with widespread
reverence and respect. Officially, at least, they are the subject of endless and widespread legal scrutiny on the presumption that the other side shares Israel's basic commitment to "peace."
The other side, however, shares absolutely nothing with the State of Israel, least of all a common commitment to nonbelligerence. For the Palestine Authority, aided and abetted by virtually all other Arab states and by certain non-Arab Islamic countries, Oslo is merely the optimal means to achieve what it can not yet achieve via a frontal military assault. For the PA, Oslo is an extraordinarily inexpensive way to open the gates of a despised enemy and to fulfil the immutable and irreversible expectations of Jihad.
After the assassination of terrorist Yechya Ayyash, known generally as "The Engineer," Yasser Arafat delivered a eulogy in Dura, near Hebron. There, Arafat praised all Palestinian "martyrs," including those who had murdered Israeli women and children in schools, buses and homes. As for coexistence with Israel, Arafat said explicitly: "You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. I have no use for Jews; they are and remain Jews." In an appearance before Palestinian "security" forces on September 24, 1996, he urged that "they fight for Allah, and ... kill and be killed....Palestine is our land and Jerusalem is our capital."
At a eulogy delivered on June 15, 1995, for Abed Al Karim Al Aklok, a former PLO official, Arafat remarked openly: "We are all seekers of martyrdom in the path of truth and right toward Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine....We will continue this dificult Jihad, this long Jihad, this arduous Jihad, in the path of martyrs - via death - the path of sacrifice...." Let us recall here that the Trojan Horse was seemingly a Greek sacrificial offering to Minerva (or so the Greeks would have had the Trojans believe), but was in actuality the means to bloody sacrifice of the Trojans. So, too, the PA would have Israel believe that it is embarked upon a sacrifice of Palestinians when, in reality, its violent path points purposely to the massive sacrifice of Jews.
Israel still holds out, and the PLO - aided by other Arab and Islamic forces - resolves to secure victory by stratagem. Pretending to make preparations for "peace," for what some naive Israelis still call the "two state solution," Arafat now prepares actively for catastrophic war. For Arafat, who points proudly to a map of "Palestine" that includes all of the current State of Israel (as well as a small slice of Jordan), Oslo is nothing more than the best way to Jerusalem. Reaffirming that Oslo is an intrinsic part of the PLO's 1974 phased plan for Israel's destruction, the Palestinian Chairman acknowledges his debt to Troy: "The light which has shone over Gaza and Jericho will also reach the Negev and the Galilee...."
The Oslo Trojan Horse is filled with armed men. The Trojans were deceived because they were not wary of an enemy bearing gifts. Will Israel learn from ancient Troy? If it will, it first needs to understand that Oslo is not a gift, but a cursed Trojan Horse.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. His work on Israeli security matters is known widely in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles. To contact Professor Beres:
Essay Number Three
Professor of International Law, Department of Political Science, Purdue University
All people, Jews or gentiles, who dare not defend
themselves when they know they are in the right,
who submit to punishment not because of what they
have done but because of who they are, are already
dead by their own decision; and whether or not they
survive physically depends on chance. If
circumstances are not favorable, they end up in gas
........Bruno Bettelheim, FREUD'S VIENNA AND OTHER ESSAYS
Bettelheim, like the Greek poet Homer, understands that the force that does not kill - that does not kill just yet - can turn a human being into stone, into a thing, while it is still alive. Merely hanging ominously over the head of the vulnerable creature it can choose to kill at any moment, poised portentuously to destroy breath in what it has allowed, if only for a few more moments, to breathe, this force makes a mockery of the fragile life it intends to consume. The human being that stands helplessly before this force has effectively become a corpse before any lethal assault is even launched.
Israel, still grinning foolishly before the potent force of Islamic hatred, is now this human being writ large. Throwing itself upon the mercy of its "Palestinian partners," the so-called Jewish State lies diminished even before the inevitable battle. Almost alone among the nations, the suppliant state neither quivers nor trembles. It has lost the right to do so.
When Priam enters the tent of Achilles, stops, clasps Achilles' knees, and kisses his hands, he has already reduced himself to a hapless and unworthy victim, one to be disposed of without ceremony and in very short order. Realizing this, a gracious Achilles takes the old man's arm, pushing him away. As long as he was clasping Achilles' knees, Priam was an inert object. Only by lifting him up off his kness could Achilles restore him to a position of self-respect and to a living manhood.
Here Israel and Priam part company. Israel's many enemies, animated by Jihad, will not act in the honorable manner of Achilles. Their aim is not the gracious revitalization of a pathetic and despised adversary, but rather the annihilation of that inert object by means of genocide and war. It follows that the Illiad offers certain important lessons for Jerusalem, but that these lessons must be based upon a brutally realistic appraisal of Israel's foes.
For whatever reasons, Israel has come to accept a view of itself that was spawned not in Jerusalem, Hebron or Tel-Aviv, but in Cairo, Damascus, Gaza and Teheran. Degraded and debased, this is the view not of a strong and powerful people, determined to remain alive, but of a conspicuous corpse-in-waiting, ingathered from exile only to make its relentless fate easier to inflict. It goes without saying that no self-respecting Israeli would concede such a view, but it is the operative national image nonetheless.
What has gone wrong? In one very insightful analysis, the answer lies in Israel's "psyche of the abused." Here, Dr. Kenneth Levin, a prominent psychiatrist, likens Israeli behavior to that of an abused child. Distorting its past to conform with enemy views of Jewish original sin, Israel largely believes - especially in its persisting acceptance of Oslo - that it is responsible for Arab terrorism and Islamic holy war. Such belief, paralleling the beliefs of the abused child, will bring it to utopia. What is forgotten here is that utopia, as Thomas More instructed, means "nowhere."
The Israeli novelist Aharon Megged notes: "We have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history; an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel's intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation." This identification has created a Jewish body politic that is disarming itself, ensuring the onset of existential harms even while it pursues the charade of military preparedness. There is a way out of this humiliating and fateful dilemma, but it must go far beyond the usual superficial suggestions of policy and personality changes. It is a way that requires, more than anything else, an upright posture for the nation, a posture that precludes clasping the enemy's knees and kissing his hands. It is a way of dignity, not supplication. It is a way of statying alive, of avoiding not only death, but also the shameless death-in-life that now cripples and immobilizes Israel before it is fully born.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. He is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters.